Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Supremes rule on U of M affirmative action cases

In previous posts dated Tuesday, May 06, 2003 entitled "More on affirmative action" and Monday, May 05, 2003 "Affirmative action and Asian-Americans" I discussed some of the issues surrounding the oral arguments and possible analysis about the cases.

I forecasted the following:

"As for the case before SCOTUS, I think they will strike down the Michigan admissions protocols but their ruling will be casted narrowly. The case has been made that diversity is a compelling interest but that the specific program in question is unconstitutional. "

Not surprisingly a closely divided court split the loaf. The undergrad scheme will have to be reworked but the law school admissions system was left intact.

The full text of the Gratz v. Bollinger (the undergrad case) and the Grutter v. Bollinger (the law school case) are posted on the SCOTUS web page.

Idealogues on both sides have reasons to crow and to harp. Affirmative action supporters point to the fact that diversity as a compelling interest was largely upheld. However, they may not be too happy with the knock down of the U of M undergrad scheme. Likewise opponents of affirmative action are claiming that the noose around affirmative action is tightening and that it is just a matter of time before it eventually will go. Of course they felt the court missed the chance to sweep it away now.

WaPo offers this analysis which I excerpt below:
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that Americans approve of, by 2 to 1, "programs designed to increase the number of black and minority students."

But the same people disapprove of, by 3 to 1, "giving [minorities] preferential treatment."
Six of the nine justices agreed that the goal of diversity is sufficiently important to justify "narrowly tailored" programs to admit minority students to higher education in place of other students with better grades or higher test scores. But the justices struck down number-based scorecard programs, in which every minority applicant automatically received bonus points. And, like Americans around water coolers from coast to coast, they argued over exactly how narrow the tailoring must be.
It was no accident that the court came down roughly in line with public opinion. Scores of friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in the Michigan cases, and while an array of conservative groups offered arguments in favor of colorblind policies, the friends in support of affirmative action included the pillars of the American mainstream: big business, big labor, major colleges, the military and so on. General Motors, the AFL-CIO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf all urged the court to preserve affirmative action.

In a passionate dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's only black member, denounced the "faddish" approval of affirmative action among these "know-it-all elites." But his side lost -- at least in part because of the support for affirmative action among key institutions. And now race-conscious admissions programs are on firmer legal ground than they have been in a generation.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor cited the views of corporate, military and academic leaders in her decisive opinion. "Major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas and viewpoints," she wrote. "High-ranking retired officers and civilian leaders of the United States military," she added, tied diversity among the officer corps to the very safety of the nation.
She plainly was wrestling in this instance with a conundrum that has perplexed the public since the dawn of affirmative action nearly 40 years ago: How do you make things fair for oppressed groups while continuing to treat people as equal individuals?

O'Connor's answer: good faith, and flexibility.

"A university's admissions program must remain flexible enough," she wrote, "to ensure that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes an applicant's race or ethnicity the defining feature."

The court ended by setting a deadline for the end of affirmative action: 25 years. This target is not binding, but it is sure to be cited as the debate continues, as it inevitably will. Writing an expiration date on a Supreme Court decision is not how it is normally done, but here, too, a middle-of-the-road decision hewed to the center stripe.

Conservatives on the court said it was too long a time. The liberals doubted it would be long enough.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Looking at the sky

As a youngster, we had a Sears refracting telescope which I took to the backyard at night. I used it to see the moon, the warm light of Venus, the red color of Mars, Jupiter and its 4 moons and Saturn with its beautiful rings. I miss those days. One of these days I'll get a telescope again.
The vendors:

Bush goes to Africa

I'm really excited to hear that Bush is going to Africa. He pushed through the tripling of HIV/AIDS funding to help Africa and now he is going there. Hopefully, his actions will help Africa stay on the policy radar screen. Hopefully, we will see more functional democracies and economic development in that vast continent.

@ the movies

Saw Bruce Almighty. I'll be honest: not a Jim Carrey fan; think he is too wacko. However, I'm told we are presented with a milder gentler Carrey and a story line with a religious theme. Carrey plays a self-centered guy who is just not quite where he thinks he wants to be who gets to be God for a while so God can make a point to him.

Carrey's antics are actually pretty funny and Jennifer Aniston is radiant and Morgan Freeman as God is excellent. I didn't plan on liking the movie going in. I was, pardon the pun, agnostic about how effective a movie with crazy Carrey as God would be especially after the trailer hypes his lunacy.

But the film turned out to be an interesting movie. The premise God sets for Bruce is that he gets to be God but can't say so and that he can't tamper with free will. At some point, an exasperated Bruce says, how can you get people to love you with out tampering with free will? Freeman replies: welcome to my world.

I have to wonder if the screen writer has read Philip Yancey's book "Disappointment with God?" That is one of the big points Yancey makes. If God reveals his power in fullness the response isn't love, it is fear. So God works with what Yancey calls a "divine shyness."

The film also focuses a lot on prayer and the dismal results that occur when Bruce uses his computer to organize all the prayers and sets up a macro to say YES to all prayers. Freeman tells Bruce, do you think people really know what they want?

A strikingly great statement about the human condition wouldn't you say?

I honestly have no idea how prayer works. You can tie your brain into a pretzel trying to figure it out: so does an answered prayer mean that God can change His mind about something? But if He isn't changing His mind about it then why pray because it was going to happen anyway?

In the last analysis, I see prayer as a relationship with God. He is not the cosmic vending machine. He is not an absent minded watchmaker who forgot where the watch went. He is the Creator who loves us. Watch people who are in love: they talk about everything with each other.

As far as the asking and receiving part of prayer, the best answer I've read is offered by W. Bingham Hunter in The God Who Hears where he suggests that prayer is the means by which God give us what He wants us to have.

Lastly, the films take home message of "Be the miracle" of course is a pretty safe heart warming message. But just because it is a cliche kind of statement doesn't mean it isn't true.

I'll grant that the films end with that is a tad humanistic and understates the mystery of God at work in that "divine shyness" I mentioned earlier. Nonetheless, we must take seriously our responsibility on this planet. Christian teaching says the church is supposed to be the Body of Christ. So when people say where is God? Well, the Bible says look at the church. We, the church, those who devote our lives to Him, are His hands and feet in this world. This notion is humiliating to God because we are such poor representatives for Him. But what is a God who wants love but won't tamper with free will to do? So he works through those who love Him already.

Go Dodgers!

Nomo with his wicked split finger. Brown with is high speed fastball. Ishii with his curve. The bullpen of Moto, Shuey, Martin and Quantrill have been amazing. And of course, closer Gange has been lights out. Pitching is strong right now.

On offense, we really do need to see Green, Jordan and Beltre perk up.

Still got to watch out for the D'Backs... they aren't doing too bad even with Shilling and Johnson out. If they get back as strong as they have been in the past, it is going to again be a three way race.

Last year, the Dodger starters wore out by the end (Brown got hurt, Ishii got hit in the head, Ashby's blisters...) and certainly that is a fear again this year. Dreifort is already done for the season with surgery. You just worry one or more of the other starters will go down and because the Dodger offense is so anemic the margin for error is very small.

The power of genetics

There is always a debate about nature (genes) and nurture (environment). Obviously, BOTH play a factor in life. And here is an item I saw in today's Daily Dish. The item is in June 20 under the title, "The Difference."

Sullivan gives an extended quote from an NY Times article.

I've picked a few excerpts below. Check out the whole article, it is a well written science piece.

Biologists have made a fundamental discovery about how the human Y chromosome, a genetic package inherited by men, protects itself against evolutionary decay.

As part of the work, the scientists have tallied the exact number of genes on the Y chromosome, finding more than they had expected. That and other research has led the researchers to assess the genetic differences between men and women as being considerably greater than thought.
The decay of the Y stems from the fact that it is forbidden to enjoy the principal advantage of sex, which is, of course, for each member of a pair of chromosomes to swap matching pieces of DNA with its partner.

The swapping procedure, known to biologists as recombination, occurs between the chromosomes inherited from the mother's and the father's side as a first step to produce the eggs or sperm. Not only does that swapping create novel combinations of genes, making each individual different, but it also enables bad genes -- those damaged by mutation or DNA changes -- to be replaced by their good counterparts on the other chromosome.
A team of researchers led by Dr. David C. Page, a biologist at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., has made a startling discovery. Denied the benefits of recombining with the X, the Y recombines with itself.

The Y chromosome is made of a single DNA molecule that is 51 million units of DNA in length.
By making a hairpin bend in the middle of a palindrome, the two arms can be brought together, aligning two long stretches of almost identical DNA sequence. That is the same step that precedes recombination between the maternal and paternal members of each ordinary chromosome pair, which also have almost identical sequences.

In the case of the Y, the alignment of the palindromic sequences leads to gene conversion. A mutated gene on one arm of the palindrome can be converted to the undamaged sequence preserved on the other arm.
The finding of 78 active genes on the Y contradicts an earlier impression of the chromosome as being a genetic wasteland apart from its male-determining gene. But if the Y is not a wasteland, important consequences ensue for the differences between men and women.

As often noted, the genomes of humans and chimpanzees are 98.5 percent identical, when each of their three billion DNA units are compared. But what of men and women, who have different chromosomes?

Until now, biologists have said that makes no difference, because there are almost no genes on the Y, and in women one of the two X chromosomes is inactivated, so that both men and women have one working X chromosome.

But researchers have recently found that several hundred genes on the X escape inactivation. Taking those genes into account along with the new tally of Y genes gives this result: Men and women differ by 1 to 2 percent of their genomes, Dr. Page said, which is the same as the difference between a man and a male chimpanzee or between a woman and a female chimpanzee.

Almost all male-female differences, whether in cognition, behavior, anatomy or susceptibility to disease, have usually been attributed to the sex hormones. But given the genomic differences that are now apparent, that premise has to be re-examined, in Dr. Page's view.

"We all recite the mantra that we are 99 percent identical and take political comfort in it," Dr. Page said. "But the reality is that the genetic difference between males and females absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the human genome."

Dr. Rice commented that he would have to think through this argument, noting that many genes - up to 15 percent in some animals - are more active in one sex than the other. These differences in gene activity might dwarf the genomic differences described by Dr. Page, he said.

Another difference that has emerged between men and women concerns their ribosomes, the numerous small engines in the cell that build its working parts from the instructions in the genes. A general purpose gene on the Y makes a ribosome component. Its counterpart gene on the X makes a slightly different protein.

That means that every ribosome in a man's body is slightly different from those in a woman's. Though the difference is pervasive, Dr. Page said, it was not known what significance it may have, if any.

We indeed are wonderfully made!

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Matrix blogger

Why am I not surprised there are blogs devoted to the Matrix? Came across this one the other day. Go ahead and read and travel down the rabbit hole. This is what Morpheus said to Neo in the first film right when he first introduced to Neo the idea there was a Matrix right?

PFC Lynch story as far as we know

As is often the case, the first reports aren't as accurate as we like. Then came the opposite extreme where the BBC called the rescue mission a staged event. Read the full story and see the courage of all involved in something almost none of us will ever face in our lives.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Surf's up! Reflections on play, technology and life

Went to the LA Filmfest and saw a great documentry about surfing called, Step into Liquid at the John Ford Theatre in Hollywood, a great outdoor venue just across from that other great outdoor venue the Hollywood Bowl.

See Step into Liquid for the great cinematography, the gorgeous locales and the sheer joy of the craziness of surfers. The director was at the LA FilmFest showing and told us that his film has been picked up for wider distribution. So watch for it at the local film festival near you and in general release in August.

So enjoy the film for the fun of it.

However, I want to make a leap into the waters and see if I can springboard into some "deeper" notions. So ride with me in this intellectual surfing!

As I watched the film, I couldn't help but think of Virginia Postrel's book "The Future and Its Enemies."
Excert from pp. 171-172
Beach volleyball is a technocrat's nightmare. Like personal computers, chaos theory, and the motion picture industry, it was created by people fooling around in the California sun. It grew spontaneously, through the cooperative efforts of its players and fans. It had no goal, no final purpose, no plan. Beach volleyball was an end in itself. Its developers weren't even pretending to work....... Fifty years after its first match, beach volleyball is a big business drawing millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships and media deals....... Despite its iron discipline, beach volleyball is fun.... Every now and then, (Newt) Gingrich's dynamist impulses peek out from his technocratic determination to mold American civilization to his carefully numbered plans..... (in the 1996 Republican convention) He sang the praises of a civilization that could create such a sport. He celebrated the process, impossible to predict, that had given the world beach volleyball.

I think the same could be said of surfing!

We sometimes deride the American tendancy to be "frivolous" but it is in our freedom to innovate and to play unashamedly that provides a societal context that results in many of the world's medical and technological advances. We may sometimes long for an idealized simpler agricultural society but how many of us would really want to live with all the illnesses and hardships that cut life short just a mere 100 years ago?

Technology is here for good and ill. But technology isn't our enemy. Rather what I believe is that we must see it in the proper perspective as Robert Kennedy so eloquantly said (University of Kansas, March 18, 1968):
GNP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

In short, technology is NOT the end all and be all of life.

Remember the story Jesus told:
A certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, "What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops". Then he said, "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself." This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but in not rich toward God.

Celebrate freedom. Celebrate the technology and innovation that can come from a free society. However, we must not worship the technology and become a slave to it. That is like worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. Rather we must strive to have technology be at the service of the advancement of virtue. There must be an "exchange" of the transient physical tangible technology put into the service and advancement of invisible spiritual eternal virtues.

Save those t-shirts!

A friend of mine a couple of years ago got a quilt made of her t-shirts prepared by her aunt. I thought it was so cool. Well, guess what? There is a company that quilts your t-shirts for a fee. I'm saving up all my various tees!

The Wild West Political Landscape

It started as something akin to tilting at windmills but now it may actually happen.
WaPo reports on the Gov. Davis recall effort.

Generally speaking, I'm very comfortable with representative democracy. Our federal system is built on that concept. A recall is not an option at the Federal level to my understanding. Anyone with knowledge of the Constitution and in the rules of the House and Senate may enlighten me?! To my knowledge, elected Federal officials can only be voted out at their term elections or expelled by their legislative bodies if they are found guilty of some ethical lapse.

However, California has always had a populist strain of political thought as reflected in the initiative process. The idea of people rallying around an idea and putting it on the ballot has been at times been very powerful as in the Prop 13 controls on property taxes which spread across America. And other times this kind of direct democracy is totally ridulous when special interest groups buy enough signatures to get their pet ideas on the ballot. Fortunately, most of the time California voters see through the nuttiness and vote the measure down.

So how would a supporter of representative democracy view the Gov. Davis recall? In principle, I would have to opposed it. He was voted in by the people of California for four more years and we should abide by that decision for good or ill.

However, I also have libertarian political instincts which says, less government is generally a better thing. Gov. Davis presided over a massive increase in the size of the state government and because the economy faultered revenues have fallen leading to the huge budget shortfall. Thus, the notion of knocking him out of office sooner rather than waiting until 2006 has a certain appeal because hopefully his replacement will be less of a more government governor.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Culture Watch

One would think the city with Hollywood in its borders would have a notible film festival. However, it was only recently that I saw the advertising banners on lightpoles for LA Filmfest. It appears to be a venue of independent films hoping to get discovered. I am surprised that such an event isn't more high profile in the city of movie making. Wonder why that is?


Meanwhile up in the hills at The Getty there is a fascinating exhibit on artistic images of Christ and Mary with emphasis on the theological concepts that they have a dual nature. In Catholic thought, Mary is somewhat more than a mortal woman as described in religious doctrine as the Assumption of the Virgin which is the subject of the art works on display in the exhibit. I found Rembrant's depiction the most striking and probably more in line with my Protestant understanding of Mary. Christians of most faith traditions will agree upon the dual human and divine nature of Jesus. The artworks on display show both sides of His nature with emphasis on one or the other in certain settings. The rich detail of the works is awe inspiring leading to interesting discussions of our emotional reactions to these grand theological notions.


A friend of mine who has his hand on the pulse of Chinese movie making had this to share with me in a recent email:
I noticed a new Chinese film "Unknown Pleasures" is about these slackers in a dwindling coal mining town. Quite interesting with a sense of dark humor on those who got left behind when the economy takes off.

"Emperor and the Assassin" tries to be like Kurosawa, but hasn't quite got the stamina.

From the same director, his new film "Together", about a teenager who strives to be a top violin player despite much adversity is one of those "Rocky" type films that is set in Beijing.

Just released in LA is "The Eye." After her corona transplant, a girl keeps seeing dead people. But it is more a love story on the joys and pains of life, rather than just a screamer. Tom Cruise has bought the remake rights. Try see it before they mess it all up!

"Hero", nominated for an Oscar earlier this year is another take on the assassination story. Most people have problems with its stance of the tyranical Emperor Qin being painted as a benevolent king (unifiying the country is crucial, i.e. today's Taiwan situation in the eyes of the China government) but the art direction is stunning.
I like to see foreign films now and then as it is a great way to get a window into another culture. Living in the Westside means there are lots of venues for such things alas time is always short!

Friday, June 13, 2003

The Men's Movement

US society is filled with "special interest" movements. On one hand, there is a place for them. In the case of ethnic minorities, the reality is that sometimes minority groups are quashed by the majority either out of malice or out of ignorance. It is only when a "special interest" group makes some noise does the issue get addressed. The Civil Rights movement is a prime example.

However, the problem with special interest groups is that often times they become motivated by grievance only or even hatred of "other groups."

The feminist movement is probably one of the strongest "special interest" groups out there. And indeed, when they are fighting to protect abused women and other injustices like that, they serve society well. However, there is clearly an aspect of the movement that is anti-male a la "a woman needs a man as much as a fish needs a bicycle." Also, there is a train of thought that denies that there are differences between the sexes i.e. men and women are the same except for plumbing.

In the last decade or so there has been a small cottage industry of books for a kind of "Men's movement" where there is an effort to define masculinity and how to recover a sense of identity that has been lost.

Can't say I am familiar with the history and ideas propagated by the movement. However, I know that Robert Bly is one of the noted personalities. Also, a few years back, the group, Promise Keepers made a huge splash with large rallies that called men to renew themselves in renewing their commitments to their wives, children and families and ultimately to God.

Here is a good summation by Ray Bohlin of two books in the Christian Men's movement.

Over the last fifteen years numerous books have been written from both secular and Christian authors to help men find their way. In this article we're going to spend some time with two of them. Stu Weber, a pastor in Oregon wrote the hugely influential Tender Warrior in 1993. Tender Warrior is full of stories and illustrations that irresistibly pull you along to Stu's appointed end: a vision of manhood mined from God's original intention for a man wrapped up in the New Testament vision of the Ultimate Tender Warrior, Jesus Christ.

At the core of Weber's vision is what he calls the four pillars of a man's heart: the Heart of a King, the Heart of a Warrior, the Heart of a Mentor, and the Heart of a Friend. I first read Tender Warrior in the mid 90s, and I was immediately caught up in his four-part description. I knew I didn't exemplify all of these characteristics as Weber describes them, but I knew I wanted to.
In the continuing parade of books from Christian authors for men comes a book that has taken the evangelical community by storm. Counselor and writer John Eldredge claims that men are wild at heart and desperately need to recapture this essential part of maleness. In his book, Wild at Heart, Eldredge claims that every man needs a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.

Eldredge's triumvirate lines up quite well with Weber's four pillars, the Heart of the King, Warrior, Mentor, and Friend. Both Weber and Eldredge assert that a man needs a cause outside himself to fully live out the image of God in him. They just use different terminology.

I recently had the chance to read Wild at Heart and recommend it with a few caveats. Books by nature are a reflection of the author's experiences and biases. The writer of Wild at Heart is clearly a strong physical specimen! He draws from his life experiences as an outdoorsman and mountain climber.

As someone who makes my living in a medical research laboratory those kinds of rugged outdoorsy stories are inspiring but are outside my experience and probably outside of many men's life stories. Interestingly, Bohlin in his analysis that I linked to above makes this point also. Nonetheless, Bohlin and I agree that Eldredge's point is well taken that lurking within a man's heart is a spirit of adventure... to be tested and stretched. And if that part of him is not active, his passion for life dies.

Because of Elredge's emphasis on the physically vigorous, I would recommend all men to read Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son to balance the picture. Here the author is writing later in life when he is losing his physical vitality and the end of life is closer than the beginning. Nouwen recognized that his spirituality no longer could be defined by vigorous activity because it was simply no longer possible. Yet, our life of spiritual passion and vitality exists even beyond the loss of our youth. And if it exists later in life, then it should exist and be cultivated now while we still have our youthful vigor. Nouwen, in this incredible book, traces his life in parallel with the great Bible story of the Prodigal Son and through the imagery of Rembrandt's painting that hangs in St. Petersburgh Hermitage museum. He describes his identification with the Prodigal younger son, the dutiful older son and his realization that he needs to move toward the identity of the Father figure in the story.

John Eldredge also seems to take some veiled swipes at the Promise Keeper movement in saying that modern American Christianity is producing "bored nice guys." Again, I recognize as an author, he is being an advocate of a position so I accept the provocative nature of those kinds of statements. But in fairness to the encouragement of "nice guys" of the PK movement, let's be real. If we are starting from husbands who don't care about their wives and abandon their children then getting to dutiful nice guys is a huge step up! And so Eldredge's push for men to recapture passion and a sense of adventure is well taken *after* men reach a willingness to renew their commitment. For in the final analysis, duty will carry us only so far. A sense of duty plus a passion for life is a powerful combination.

Winged Migration

The film Winged Migration is about migratory birds. It was nominated for Best Documentry in the recent Academy Awards. However, it lost to Moore's Bowling for Columbine.

It is a beautiful movie. The birds are amazing creatures and the film makers went all over the world to capture spectacular images of birds at flight, at play, in danger and simply doing what God meant for them to do. So my first reaction was simply, wow, aren't those birds neat? Then, you sit there thinking, how the heck did they capture that on film? Well, check out the film's web page and you find out all the gadgets they used to ferry a camera up to the birds. It really was a labor of love to make this movie.

The film is simple in concept but beautifully executed. Factor in the incredible music score and sounds of nature you have an amazing cinematic experience.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

More on the Matrix Reloaded

*** spoilers below ***

I'm not real clear on some points in the film.

Is this what he, the architec, was saying?

Go through door #1 and you can save some of the people of Zion and your programing code will be spread through the Matrix like cremated ashes tossed to the four winds thus generating matrix version 7.0?

Go through door #2 and you can *try* to save your one true love but Zion is totally destroyed?

Is that the situation we are left with in the white room?

By the way, one friend suggested, can we assume the architect is even telling the truth???

By that point of the movie I was not following very well. If we had arrived at that point perhaps 10 to 20 minutes earlier I might have still had the energy and desire to listen more closely!

Also in the prior 6 encounters with the architect, I take it "the One" choose door #1? That is not clear to me?

Seems to me the door #1 isn't all that tempting? If you know that your rebel base is going to be reduced to ashes leaving just a handful of people KNOWING that it is just going to happen again is kind of a futile cycle?

At least door #2 you have the chance to save her and enjoy her... existential live drink and be merry for tomorrow we die but that sure seems better than a futile cycle?

But then, if the architect needs Zion to purge the incompatible elements of the matrix he will always need Zion so choice #2 is even more logical because Zion will exist again unless this is the last cycle of death and rebirth of Zion and the Matrix has acheived perfection. Given the chaos Neo has already caused, it seems unlikely they have gotten to that point yet: humans are always such troublesome creatures anyway.

From the architect's point of view, he is faced with two realities: (1) he needs humans (batteries) to keep the machines running (survival is the prime directive) and (2) some of the humans don't fit into the matrix either consciously or unconscoiously they will be disruptive to the whole system.

I suppose the architect could kill off the incompatible people. Instead, he allows an apocalyptic cult of Zion to go around unplugging people.

I suppose the Zion construction is needed to more effectively "debug" the program. Willy nilly killing off the incompatible people may not improve the next upgrade of the Matrix enough. He has to allow a full blown rebellion to flourish in order to make improvement. Kind of Darwinian?

And of course the whole cycles of death and rebirth sounds so Hindu reincarnation!

And then you have a savior like being in Neo with its Christian overtones or maybe an "enlightened" Buddha like figure. Then of course he has this relationship with an ordinary woman which I guess is kind of Greek mythology where the gods fall in love with mortal women.

So it is pretty typical post-modern, post-Christian American zeitgeist... kind of a salad bar approach to religion...

Of course the final confusion was his abilty to zap the mechanicals hunting them down at the end of the movie which has led some in the fan webpages to speculate that there is a SUB matrix and that the realm of Zion is a sub matrix to control the people who don't fit into the regular matrix.... and so now Neo is feeling his powers in that realm.... of course perhaps he is transcending mere mortal powers in the "real" world in addition to his superpowers in the matrix world....

We await episode 3... and look forward to hours of conversation about the film! 8-)

See the film for the stunning visuals and for the interesting discussion it will provoke about free will and determinism. Nitpicks about the movie: action set pieces are a little too long and that whole sensual stuff in Zion was interesting but even though I'm as hormone drenched as a teenage male, it was still a bit long for my (somewhat older than teenage) tastes. One wonders if there is a plot point to this that has a payoff in the 3rd episode or is it merely for style points? One fan of the movie speculates it is to highlight the raw physicality and sensuality of the "real" world of Zion versus the sterilized drab "matrix" world. Wouldn't it be ironic if the film makers make Zion part of a sub-matrix where the stark contrast is part of the program to fool the people who don't fit into the regular matrix? Hmmmm.....

Sit through the credits to see the trailer for the third film. Alas, the trailers reveal very little but it is fun to watch anyway.

The Matrix Reloaded

Finally saw the big movie, Matrix: Reloaded.
Here is my review that I shared with a friend via email:
Well, finally saw the movie with all the hype...

Have you seen?

It really is 3 expository dialogs surrounded by a bunch of action set pieces.

No doubt the action set pieces were great.

The dialogs.... well..... made me think of a radiotalk show comedianne whose tag line was "Give me 22 minutes and I'll give you a headache" which was a take off of a news radio channel's ad tag line, "Give us 22 minutes and we will give you the world."

Anyway, it is an interesting movie and will spawn many hours of table top talking about free will and determinism

Be curious to hear what you think?


If you are a philosophy student or a interested in philosophy, check out this page recommended by a friend. It is chock full of essays on the philosophical aspects of the Matrix storyline.

And if you are a hard core fan, go to this fan page.

@ the Movies again!

Saw James "Titanic" Camerron's "Ghosts of the Abyss" which is his documentry on the history of the Titanic tragedy and where he takes the cameras down to the wreck itself to tell the sad tale. They even had rebot cameras that went INTO the wreck and explored some of the cabins! The story telling is amazing as survivors had described what their cabins were like and to be able to go in and find some aspects still intact. The went through various parts of the ship to check out what was known about the design and decorations.

The 3-D is remarkable though it can induce motion sickness. The technology is amazing. A buddy of mine who works with projection technology, tells me the glasses receive a signal from the film and the shutter back and forth between your right and left eye thus creating the depth perception of the 3-D Imax format.

There were also amazing stories of the courage of the crew but also the sadness of knowing that so many decisions costs lives. In particular was the decision on the number of life boats to put on the Titanic. Because they thought the ship was unsinkable, they didn't put enough. Another dreadful decision was that on one side of the ship, the crew loaded only women and children on the lifeboats and set them into the water with unused capacity. While on the other side, the crew put women and children in and whoever else they could fit in. I think in the film, they said, 2/3 of the survivors were loaded on that side of the boat.

And finally, there is the story of the musicians who played on the deck to calm the passengers. Gives me the chills even to write about it now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

@ the Movies

For the best quality sound and projection in Los Angeles, see movies at the Arclight. Been there once to see Chicago and I had seen Chicago once before at the Grove. Grove is great. Arclight is even better. Costs more but for film fans, enjoy!


Got this link from a friend. So if ever in Dublin, Ohio check out the Field of Corn sculpture. This reminds me, if you are in South Dakota, check out the Mitchell Corn Palace.

My name is Rene and I'm a West Wing fan

Other day got an email requesting for Republicans to participate in a focus group for the West Wing. I'm guessing their slipping ratings have caused them to wonder if their lefty leanings are hurting the shows appeal? Anyway, as part of indicating my interest they want to know my favorite character. I have to say it is between Josh and Leo. John Spencer's Leo's map of the world on his face is such a terrific actor. As for Josh, he is often the character who gets to give the policy stuff when he argues with Donna and that is always entertaining and enlightening.

For fans of West Wing be sure to check out the following three sites.
For the quick summary of the plot and various real world fact checking.
For extensive recaps and snarky comments.
Federal employees point out boo-boos on the show.

Celebrate LIFE!

This past Sunday did the Rock and Roll Marathon in SD. The support is great with water stations every 1-2 miles with Gatorade at about every other water stop. The bands were good and the local high school cheerleading squads really added to the block party atmosphere of the run and of course the fans on the sidewalk.

A huge number were part of the Leukemia Society Team in Training. Of the three marathons I have done, two have had a large TNT contingents.

I don't know at what point in the past 10-20 years did marathon participation get democratized. At one time, it was an obscure niche sport for the elite few. And indeed, many races are still only for the highly athletic with time limits for completion.

However, the convergence of economics and charity and the fitness craze have combined to popularize the marathon as an event for the everyday person. The economic impact of 20,000 runners plus their family and friends being in the city renting cars, occupying hotels, shopping and eating at restaurants is undeniable. These races inevitablly have some kind of charity tie in to further the public relations value of a marathon.

Not only large cities are getting into the act. There are "destination" marathons like Maui and Anchorage where for a weekend plus a few days those smaller communities can swell with tourist dollars.

If you are thinking of doing a marathon, the TNT training program is an excellent one for first timers as they provide coaching, a support network and a good cause.

I did my first marathon in Los Angeles and trained with the LA Roadrunners. This training group has now spawned an offshot called the LA Running Club.